Hertzian barometers


In Hertzian Tales – Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical DesignAnthony Dunne writes

“It is just over one hundred years since electricity generation started, seventy since radio transmissions began, and fifty since radar and telecommunications entered our environment. The twentieth century has seen space evolve into a complex soup of electromagnetic radiation.”

In “Ambient Awareness, Hertzian Weather Systems, and Urban Architecture,” Mark Shepard speculates whether this “complex soup of electromagnetic radiation” is possibly as significant as physical architecture, suggesting that Archigram member Peter Cook‘s argument for the weather as architecture

“When it is raining in Oxford Street the architecture is no more important than the rain; in fact the weather has probably more to do with the pulsation of the Living City at that given moment.”

applies equally well to the hertzian weather of modern metropolis, writing

“Culled from the catalog for the 1963 exhibition Living City, organized for the ICA in London by the young British architecture group Archigram, the quote by Peter Cook remains remarkably relevant for contemporary urbanists. In place of natural weather systems, however, today we find that the data clouds of twenty-first-century urban space are increasingly shaping our experience of the city and the choices we make there. These Hertzian weather systems are becoming as important as, if not more than, the formal organization of space and material.”

One of the critical aspects of understanding any weather system – hertzian or otherwise – is an issue of measurement.

“What surrounds us? More than what we can see, touch, and feel. Beyond atmosphere, particular and solid matter, our bodies encounter many forms of invisible radiation: electromagnetic, wifi, gsm, audio and white noise. The Invisible Forces project provides a framework for the measurement and spatial mapping of radiation.”– Invisible Forces, Anthony DeVincenzi with Kane Hsieh and David Lakatos. via Pasta&Vinegar

An earlier related project, Wifi Camera, Bengt Sjölén and Adam Somlai Fischer with Usman Haque, creates a live panoramic image of a space seen through Wifi radio and other 2.4 GHz radio signals – how they bounce back form the architecture, composing an image, just as light would do.

Mark Shepard, Hertzian Rain. From "Ambient Awareness, Hertzian Weather Systems, and Urban Architecture," Public Art Review, 2009

Shepard’s own Hertzian Rain project is

a variable event structure designed to raise awareness of issues surrounding the wireless topography of urban environments through telematic conversations based on sound and bodily movement. As with other aspects of the physical world such as land, water, and air, the electromagnetic spectrum is a limited resource. Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons illustrates the dilemma in which multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared resource even when everyone knows this is in no one’s long-term interest. Hertzian Rain addresses this competition for signal dominance through a participatory scenario for real-time, asymmetrical communication between sound makers (sound artists, DJs, spoken word performers) and sound listeners (an audience)—or hybrids thereof.”